Introduction to the World of GURPS/Snowcrash

Snowcrash is the world described by Neal Stephenson in his novel SNOW CRASH (ISBN 0-553-35192-3 or 0-553-08853-X Bantam Books, 1992). This book was described by William Gibson as ``Fast-forward free-style mall mythology for the early 21st century.'' It makes an excellent background for Cyberpunk adventures, and one noticalby different than the standard one provided by R. Talsorian or Steve Jackson Games. Some advantages of this world are listed here.

I have also mixed in some Cyberpunk style cybernetics, and "moddies" and "dadies" from When Gravity Fails by _______. These elements can and should be removed if you want a "pure" Snowcrash world. But, from my point of view, they are too much fun to drop.

Snowcrash is a world were everything has been franchised. Not just food, hotels, and stores, but everything. Need a cop? There are three major franchises in the US, and many smaller ones. They don't run the jails, though. There are two major chains of jails they can use. Religion is just another franchising opertunity, and a pretty cut throat one, at that.


The world is an semi-logical extension of the one we have now. The main assumptions are:

  1. Governments are less powerful than they are today, especially the U.S. governments.
  2. Corporations are more powerful than they are today, and typically organized as franchises.
  3. Technology has moved forward, but nothing so radical as nano-machines or FTL transport has been created. (In GURPS terms this is a high TL 7 or low TL 8 world.)


Snowcrash is not a very high tech world, for cyberpunk. It has a computer matrix, and the tech is only 3-10 years in the future. Not everything available in snowcrash is available now, but everything available there is understandable now.


That's simple, there isn't one. There are so many, that none of them really matter. Specifically, most of the 'burbs are soveriegn, as are many of the larger corporations.



She's got her Liquid Knockles uncapped, available, and shaken well before use. She's got high voltage, high-fashion metalic cuffs around her wrists in case someone tries to grab her by same. And a bundy stunner up her sleeve. Only the most tubular throwbacks carry guns. Guns take a long time to work (you have to wait for the victim to bleed to death), but paradoxically they end up killing people pretty often. But nobody hassles you after you've hit them with a bundy stunner. At least that's what the ads say. (SC244)

In addition to all that, there are a lot of firearm regulations, and routine searches. So guns are not too cool to carry around. Plus, whenever you move from one soveriegn area to another (enter a 'burb, for example) you wave your 4th amendment right (whatever that was) not to be searched; meaning you will be searched.

The Metaverse (matrix, or net)

But his real reason for being in Flatland is that Hiro Protagonist, last of the freelance hackers, is hacking. And when hackers are hacking, they don't mess around with the superficial world of Metaverses and avatars. They descend below this surface layer and into the the netherworld of code and tangled nam-shubs that supports it, ... (SC327)


Companies are big and inhumane, but they hide behind the friendly face of a frachise. At least, those which provide mass produced services and good do. There are some non-franchised companies, mostly those which exploit natural resources; or man made resources.

Another differences, which is harder to describe, is that people's jobs are not all consuming. People's jobs do not control their lives in the world of Snowcrash.

The Law

Crime and punishment works a little bit differently in the world of snowcrash. No one wants to pay for long confinements; especially for crooks. So punishment is typically quick and cheap to administer. Beatings, lashings, big fines, warnings like these:


tatooed on the forehead. That sort of thing.



The courts in Diamond Age are much as I imagine the courts in the world of Snowcrash.


Punishment tends to be quick, painful, and cheap. Expensive stuff like long term incarseration is almost unheard of. Beatings, mutilations, tattooing, branding, fines, confiscation of equipment, these are common punishements.


Snow crash has lots of languages, but White English is still the Lingua Franca of the world. Other new languages include Black English and Texilingua. In the pacific rim, common languages include White English, Manderin, Texilingua, Vietamese, and Thai.

Several languages are common in the continental United States. White English and Black English are the two most common. Spanish and Texilingua are fairly common. Amost every language spoken by man is spoken somewhere in the US.


Winnabago, or any large moble home.
Intellegence in the sence of information.
Refers to two dementional computer screens. The place where a lot of hacking gets done.
"land zeppelin"
The glow from many franchise's neon logos. A multi colored, constantly changing dim form of limumination which is typically found around highways.
An advanced skateboard. Typically including ....
Partner. Friend and business associate.

Life: Day to Day

This section describes a little of the day to day life of different sorts of people in the world.

Edge Runner's Life

This represents less than 1% of the population, but it is the group where adventurers come from.



Anywhere they can. Public spaces. Illegally squatting. At work. U-Stor-its.


Nowhere, part time or seasonal work. Part of the grey economy, or something "high flash" like movies, software or rock and roll.


Warehouses, the metaverse, underground tunnels.

Everyone Else's Life

Everyone else's life is frachise based. The only difference between higher and lower class people is the class of franchise they deal with.




A 'burbclave, self contained building, or corporate housing.


In the metaverse.

The Rest of the World

The descriptions so far only cover the old United States of America, and does not apply to the rest of the world. The rest of the world is different.

Optional Parts of the World

The book Snowcrash only covers part of the world -- obviously -- so the GM has some descisions to make about the rest of it. Some of these choices make a big difference to the world you play in, so I discus them here, along with some of the implications to the world.

Technology and World Questions

Space Travel

Is there, or isn't there?

Aliens or Extraterrestrial Life

Is there, or isn't there?

GURPS World Books